About the Author

Woody is a 10 year veteran of the US Coast Guard, where he has served at various units including the International Training Division and Maritime Security Response Team. He has held qualifications including Deployable Team Leader/Instructor, Direct Action Section Team Leader, and Precision Marksman – Observer. He has deployed/instructed on five continents and served in quick reaction force roles for multiple National Special Security Events in the US.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Some thoughts from the Starbucks debacle

I was bored at work today, and spent a significant amount of time reading about the Starbucks letter.  I read about the history, various opinions about who was exactly to blame for this turn of events, and I hope that I have some useful takeaways:

Firstly, Starbucks was never pro-gun.  They were neutral, choosing to follow local laws.  They were portrayed as pro-gun because they chose not to cave to pressure from anti-gun groups.  When those anti-gun groups threatened a boycott, pro-gun groups stepped in to show Starbucks that they supported their stance.  That initial support, I think, was a good thing.  The bad thing came next - pro-gun groups just wouldn't leave, and they staged multiple demonstrations - essentially protests - in a store that had specifically asked not to be dragged into political activities.  The fact that Starbucks regularly supports liberal causes with their money was conveniently ignored by both Starbucks and pro-gun activists initially. 

Secondly, pro-gun groups staged their demonstrations in ways that would attract attention, which is good.  Unfortunately, they also did it in ways that attracted a lot of negative attention.  Let's face it, I've gotten weird looks walking from my car to the exhibition hall with my rifle slung, even when a gigantic GUN SHOW sign was clearly flashing in the window of the hall.  Did they really think the reaction from Starbucks was going to be different?

The lesson to be learned from this?  If your goal is to support an organization that either supports you, or at least doesn't oppose you, you may want to do it in a way that doesn't draw lots of negative attention that interferes with the conduct of their business.  No one likes to be featured on the news with a police car in the front parking lot (unless the cop is buying donuts).  The idea is to support the organization, not turn it away from you.  I have opened carry in Starbucks many times, but not as part of a large agenda-driven group, and have never received any complaints (although I did get thanks for my tip).

Thirdly, I think Howard Schultz made a big error.  He has the right to make decisions in the conduct of his business, but I also have the right to choose another store if I disagree with those decision.  While I have seen many posts that he asked people not to open carry, while leaving concealed carry open, his letter specifically states that he requests people not to bring firearms into his stores.  He doesn't say that he requests that people not open carry in his store, which actually could have been a good middle ground considering the tone of the rest of his letter.  He says he doesn't want people bringing any firearms into his stores.  Even thought he waffles in his letter about remaining neutral in the debate, the simple fact is that by asking for no firearms, he has taken a side.  This is not a "for us or against us" argument.  He leaves no room for debate in his letter.  His words: For these reasons, today we are respectfully requesting that customers no longer bring firearms into our stores or outdoor seating areas -- even in states where "open carry" is permitted -- unless they are authorized law enforcement personnel. While he references open carry, he clearly states no firearms in general.  I therefore choose not to do business at Starbucks anymore.

Fourthly, I have heard many people say that they will continue to carry concealed in Starbucks until he puts up signs.  To them I say:  Schultz requested that people not make his stores a political arena.  Neither side listened, open carry advocates got a little carried away (but broke no laws), and here we are with him "requesting...no firearms."  So to those who will still carry despite his request, how are you any different from the open carry guys?  Are you morally superior to the open carry advocates because you hide the fact that you are disregarding his request?  In other words, you are saying one thing with your appearance, while actually doing another.  In most places, a person who does that is considered "two-faced."  You are breaking no laws, but if CC advocates get outed to the corporate office, and it is established that guns are still coming in to stores and disrupting his "third place," I can assure you, the signs will go up just as fast as with the OC guys.

Fifthly, and probably most galling to me, are the people who state that they will carry even in places where it is legally posted they cannot, and seem to have no concept of the maelstrom that they are risking.  Which do you think will look worse in the news - three guys who broke no laws, but caused a few ruffled feathers, or a legal concealed carry permit holder who willfully disregards the law and carries where he is not allowed?  I know the arguments for carrying even where it is not permitted (Buffalo Wild Wings, Costco, etc), and I will not take a side on that.  My only caution is that if you choose to break the law, understand the consequences of your action.  You will be a Hero, or you will be a Zero, depending on how things play out.  There will be no middle ground, and chances are better on you being a Zero than a Hero.

Anyway, my rant is over.  I will not be doing business with Starbucks anymore, as stated in my letter.  Hopefully, my thoughts will be useful talking points for you to consider as you go about exercising your Constitutional right legally.  And yes, I include open carry.  Exercise your rights responsibly, and your chances of ending up on the front page of the newspapers are much reduced.


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